Like many of your corporate or business travel clients, whenever I travel to any of the GCC countries on business, I tend to just carry out my business meetings, head back to the hotel in the evening and not take the opportunity to actually see what the city/destination has to offer. Well, on a recent visit to Qatar to attend Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF), I had the opportunity to see Doha as a tourist – and found I have been missing out on so much Doha has to offer, especially the culture.
Although I had been to an event at Katara Cultural Village a few years ago, it was at night and, therefore, I didn’t see all that is on offer, like The Amphitheatre. This outdoor venue feels like you could be in Greece, but with the Islamic influence. The views overlooking the sea and West Bay Area are stunning and the acoustics ensure all 5,000 seats will not miss a beat. It is a crafted balance between the classical Greek theatre concept and the everlasting Islamic features.
Other venues at the village are the Opera House, the home of the Qatar Philharmonic, a drama theatre and two masjids, The Golden Masjid with Ottoman influence and The Katara Masjid designed by globally known Turkish mosque designer, Zainab Fadil Oglu.
There are also more halls and galleries I didn’t have time to see. Shopping and cafés are plentiful too, including Al Jazeera Media Café, which features an interactive studio, broadcast studio, an exhibition of Al Jazeera Media Network’s past, a range of souvenirs, as well as food and coffee. I had also visited The Pearl but only to the The Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel. What I hadn’t see was all the shopping and restaurants and café’s also on this Island, not to mention the view of the marina and the beautiful yachts.
MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART
This is a must for any visitor – it houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Islamic Art with masterpieces from both secular and religious aspects of divers worlds – drawn from the treasure of princes to the personal homes of ordinary people. The museum, standing alone on a reclaimed land, itself is an icon. Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect I M Pei, it draws influences from ancient Islamic architecture, notably the Ibn Tulum Mosque in Cairo. From the museum, both from inside the 45-metre-tall window and outside through the arches, are some the best views I have seen of Doha.
I would recommend taking a full day out to see all there is to see in this five storey building. You can either walk around yourself, or have a guided tour. You can take a break at the either IDAM restaurant serving contemporary French Mediterranean cuisine with an Arabic twist, or have a snack at the café or Kiosk also available.
The museum also offers educational tours including family tours with children workshops and outside, a children’s playground. Concerts are also organised on a regular basis.
I sadly wasn’t able to join the desert safari, which I understood from my travel companions, was very different from what they have done in other GCC countries in as much as you end the trip at the sea – at the border of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Something I will put on my agenda for my next trip.
The next time you are booking your corporate or business client in Doha, or indeed anyone with onward travel via Doha, this traveller would recommend they take advantage of the new stop over visa and see what Qatar has to offer.
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